Compare-O Bottom Line: Born on the ‘shore’ Norco Range 7.1 packs proven DH chops in AM package

27.5 Enduro Enduro Compare-O 2014

This article is part of the Mtbr’s Enduro Compare-O. See all the stories in this special section here–

Born in 2011 as a 26-inch, all-mountain sled, and inspired by the steep and technical trails of Vancouver, BC’s North Shore, the Norco Range has progressed to reflect the design necessities of the day—namely 27.5-inch wheels and a slack, forgiving geometry. Along the way, the Range also got some carbon fiber siblings, but we’ll be taking a ride on the current version of the aluminum original, the $3,150 Range Alloy 7.1.

After our First Look overview of the Range 7.1 a couple weeks, interest in this value-minded all-mountain sled has spiked. It’s burly attitude, eye-catching orange paint and low-cost seems to have struck a chord, and—as our test rides revealed—with good reason.

ART is the Heart

Norco uses what they call Advance Ride Technology (ART) to optimize the placement points of the Range’s rear suspension design by moving the rear pivot lower and slightly forward of the traditional four-bar Horst-link location. According to Norco this does four things—it increases square edge bump compliance, improves braking performance, enhances pedaling efficiency, and promotes a more progressive suspension.

We can attest to the square edge bump compliance and improved braking which is handled by a Fox 34 Float Evolution fork up front and a Fox Evolution Float CTD LV high-volume shock in the rear. Over square edge hits and stutter bumps, the Range absorbs impacts in a smooth, controlled manner that encouraged deeper and deeper corner braking. The active suspension design stayed supple without packing up.

The Range soaked up all we could throw at it, remaining compliant for small- to mid-sized hits, and never bottoming-out on jumps and drops. The suspension action compensated for our lack of finesse even on flatter-than -preferred landings. This speaks to one of the strengths of the Range—it’s point-and-shoot-ability. This isn’t to say that the Range won’t follow the flow with the best of them, because it will. It just has the capability to rip, as one of our test riders attested.

“The Range instills such confidence,” he said. “I’d love to thrash it for a weekend up at Northstar (Bike Park).”

Though ART provides an efficient pedaling platform—better than past iterations of the 26-inch-wheeled Range—the suspension remains active when climbing.  Compared to other bikes in our test, however, the Range was not as efficient as some of the other suspension designs. That’s not to say that it’s a bad climber—and some riders may prefer an active rear end on climbs—but for prolonged climbs you’ll want to flip the suspension into Climb mode.

Photo by Tyler Frasca.

Another attribute that holds back the Range’s climbing ability is its weight. At just under 32 pounds, the Norco is one of the heavier bikes in our comparison. But the news isn’t all bad.

“For its weight, the Range pedaled lighter than expected,” said one test rider. “During out-of-the-saddle efforts, the rear wheel stayed planted surprisingly well.”

Continue to Page 2 for more on the Norco Range 7.1 and full photo gallery »

About the author: Gregg Kato

Gregg Kato studied journalism and broadcasting in college while working many different jobs including deejaying, driving a forklift and building web sites (not all at the same time). Kato enjoys riding local Santa Cruz trails. Besides being an avid mountain biker, he is also a motorcycle fanatic. Two wheels, one Passion.

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  • Roger says:

    32lbs well duh, it’s not a carbon bike! It’s single pivot…the shock that does all the work! Does it have enve wheels? Makes all the difference!

  • Roger says:

    This compare-o is ridiculous! It’s apple and oranges! We know carbon and aluminum bikes are too different rides, also carbon and aluminum wheels! Also factor in rider fitness! Let’s see some pro credentials!

  • Shawn says:

    Roger,it’s not a single pivot bike. Norco licences Specialized’s four bar Horst link suspension design.

  • Ian says:

    Some carbon and alu bikes are very close. Pivot 5.7 is within half a pound and rides great in alu. Well build alu wheels will be as good as carbon and less,prone to fail on hard rock hits. Most of us are still on alu frames with alu wheels.. So it is very relevant NorCal sight in alu got a lot of praise so I have hopes for this one too

  • David says:

    How have you selected the bikes that are under test?
    I see a number of boutique brands, niner, yeti, ibis etc, but a brand like Transition have a couple of bikes both 29 & 26 that fit this category yet are nowhere to be seen.
    Their Bandit29 is an awesome ride and the Covert to more agressive again.
    Any thoughts?

  • Chez says:

    I agree mostly with this review. It is a portly bike(I have last year’s Range 2) but can be lightened up very easily with the money you save. It climbs EXCEEDINGLY well for how heavy it is. I switched mine up to a narrow wide front and it has been great. It’s like having a mini DH bike that can climb. Bike design has come a long way in just a few short years. Now to get some lighter wheels.

  • Doctor says:

    I like how all the pics are of someone on a 6″ bike on a trail that’s smooth as a baby’s butt.

    Also agree with others, this review is pretty useless with the disparity of build kits. Why ding a low-cost bike for lacking a dropper post or being heavy? Is there some other equally cheap bike doing a better job?

    Also: there’s basically no actual “compare” in this compare-o.

  • Zrider says:

    I have this bike and it is pretty amazing. It is not a light bike, but I am running DH tires on Raceface wheels and swapped out a lot of the shimano stuff for X9. I am also running 203F/180R disks so wieght wasn’t my concern. It comes in at 33 lb and rides great and climbs better then my 2011 Spec Stumpy FSR. The Fox fork is really a POS. They did improve, but FOX is still riding on there name and not quality. I would buy this bike again and truly use the bike to the limit (I also have a DH and DJ bike, I ride hard and this is my XC/all mountain bike). The paint and finish do not get enough credit, because the orange pearl paint looks amazing.

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